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Kevin Lerena prepares for the next chapter of his boxing career

By Bongani Magasela | 2017-09-07 11:43:22.0

South African boxing has never known anyone quite like Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena.

He is a one-man marketer and has slotted perfectly into a world where social media and branding have become ubiquitous.

What is more‚ he can fight‚ blending his alpha male personality with his power to produce arguably South Africa’s most popular boxer.

The 25-year-old former SA‚ WBC Youth silver and WBA Pan African cruiserweight champion — who is trained by Peter Smith — will face France-based ring warrior Youri “El Toro” Kalenga in a fight for the vacant IBO cruiserweight championship at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.

Their 12 rounder will top Golden Gloves’ six bout card which is part of the 40th anniversary of this promotion that is guided by Rodney Berman.

“Yes‚ 2016 was good‚ but I look to progress every year‚” Lerena said.

“I’ve started coming into my own‚ discovering who I am as a fighter.

“Things are really starting to click.

“I’ve had six years as a pro and haven’t looked back.

“It’s all about accumulating experience‚ learning the lessons.

“I’m evolving as a boxer.”

Lerena’s trajectory shows a fighter firmly in the ascendancy.

Although he had many faults in his rookie years‚ no doubt a consequence of having little to no amateur experience‚ Lerena has adjusted and improved with every outing.

A professed student of the game‚ he is obsessed with self-improvement: he is sharply self-critical and works constantly on his skills.

The sport of boxing has many fine exponents locally‚ but few of them are head-turners.

They go about their business quietly and diligently‚ but unless you are a hard-core boxing fan‚ you probably do not know about them.

Lerena‚ blessed with attitude and articulacy‚ is close to being a crossover star — a fighter who appeals to dyed-in-the-wool boxing supporters as much as occasional watchers who are intrigued by his persona.

The turning point came two years ago for the cruiserweight.

In a massive return fight‚ Lerena avenged his only career loss by stopping Johnny Muller.

He then went on to outlast world-ranked Micki Nielsen to annex the Super Four crown.

He showed maturity in both‚ wearing tough Muller down in the first instance and then packing away his ego and boxing smartly against heavy-hitting Nielsen.

Lerena is deeply aware of the public’s growing expectations.

He is happy to take on that responsibility‚ saying he would love to pack in around four fights this year and then stalk down one of the world champions in 2018.

He is rated No 6 by the WBC‚ No 11 by the WBA while the IBF has recognised his consistency with a No 6 spot.

The WBO has placed him on its No 2 position.

The march continues‚ and confident Lerena is in full stride.